Faced with the challenge of cracking the £30 million creative assignment for the mobile phone operator 3 in just ten days, someone at M&C Saatchi came up with the oh-so original idea of a celebrity-fronted campaign.
As any agency boss worth his Ferrari will tell you, this is always a risky tactic. While the prospective client may be knocked out by the idea, his first question will always be: "But can you actually sign this celebrity?" And, if you can't, he'll then want to know why you are wasting his time. Therefore, it is very important that you get your celebrity sorted beforehand.
Thus it was that lights were shone and cameras went into action for a late-night, eve-of-pitch shoot in the agency's reception area. And who was the object of all this attention? None other than Gillian Anderson, aka the alien-hunting FBI special agent Dana Scully of The X-Files fame.
Nick Hurrell, the agency's joint chief executive, was the hero of the hour. He managed to track down the star's agent through Sally Greene, of Old Vic Productions, the first lady of London theatreland, and negotiated an instant deal under which Anderson would be paid a nominal fee for her night's work, with the promise of much more to come if the agency should win the business.
Everybody had to work fast. The four-hour shoot ended at 1am. Editing was completed in time for the agency's 7.30am pitch rehearsal and presented to 3's executives at 10am. Sadly to no avail. "The pitch went like a dream - and then we lost," a red-eyed Hurrell moans.
M&C weren't the only ones to get burned by the 3 review. A rival agency was left agog when, five minutes into their pitch, one of 3's key senior executives left the room to check his e-mails. He never returned. The agency lost.
And the moral of the story? For an easier life, try winning your new business the old-fashioned way. On the golf course.